A once-dormant powerhouse in the contemporary art community has awoken with full force.
Frieze is an art exposition that occurred in Seoul, South Korea, from Sept. 2 to 5. Frieze was founded as a magazine in London in 2003. In 2012, their influence expanded to Los Angeles and New York. Frieze also opted to collaborate with the Galleries Association of Korea rather than compete with the company, with both organizations holding their events in the same area at a similar time. However, the association expressed concerns about the event’s economic impact. The exposition’s sales place art directly into the collector’s market instead of routing works solely through galleries, a move that the ,association believes "undermines the foundation of the market."
While Frieze Seoul is a hub for influential artists and galleries to congregate for art sales, celebrity appearances occurred throughout the week. Korean Pop star Kin Nan-Joom attended the event. The BTS star is known for his influence on popular culture and his extensive art collection, along with his influence on South Korea’s art boom.
A particularly notable group of sales came from Thaddaeus Ropac Gallery and their stock of Anselm Kiefer. The German painter and sculptor still operates in Germany, but the gallery brought his works to the market to illuminate the intensity of his pieces. Much of his work focused on the consequences of Nazism and was created during a time in Germany when mentioning it was highly taboo. His 2019 piece Eros captures the first harvest using multimedia. Kiefer’s works using thematic concepts such as cultural suffering and oppression resonated deeply with attendees of the event, and his works were sold for approximately $1 million dollars each. His pieces never saw the rest of the expo; they all sold before the first day was over.
While significant studios and galleries made the big bucks at their booths, smaller artists scrambled to showcase their pieces, desperate to make a living with their creative expression. One artist by the name of Rondi Park sold a performance where they read poetry, intensely sobbed, and tattooed the name of the person who won the bid on her arm, a memento as permanent as her impact on the exposition. With how difficult it is for creators in Korea to get their big break in the art scene, only time will tell how attention from western studios will impact young artists.
Overall, Frieze Art Week in Seoul, South Korea, was an incredible success by reinforcing the country’s stance on the map as a hub for a major arts boom. While significant giants in art sales like Hauser and Wirth left with major paydays selling works by artists such as Anselm Kiefer and Thaddaeus Ropac Gallery, smaller artists grasped for their big break at the inaugural event. Not only does this exposition provide South Korean artists with the means to make sales, but it also acts as the ideal platform to showcase their masterpieces, getting the attention from galleries that it has been craving since the start of the pandemic.
Edited by Samantha Fencil, Editor-in-Chief
Layout by Rebecca Katherine Levenson, Publisher
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